Monday, August 13, 2012

Catering Questions For Wedding Receptions & Events

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Everyone enjoys a wedding reception, party and business event from different viewpoints.  Some guests love the flowers, food presentation and decor, while others comment on the food and service.  While most people host their event with the attitude of having a great and memorable time, we have found the choice for the right caterer comes with hundreds of questions.

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There are a variety of catering services:
  1. Pick-up catering
  2. Full Service catering – complete with linens, bar, meal, deserts
  3. Location – in-house catering or banquet departments
  4. BBQ catering
  5. Full Service with a number of reception locations to offer
  6. Church or membership halls with food and serving committee
  7. Location’s selected vendor list of independent caterers to choose from
Lovely locations find themselves dismissed from the bride’s list because the caterer/chef has a poor reputation or same old menu for every wedding. Even a backyard wedding can create space, access and function concerns for food being prepped and served.
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Quick Tips:
Tip:  When you choose an event location where all the party rentals, tables and linens, dishes are rented, you will spend as much or more on these items than on the food and catering services. (backyard parties - home events)
Tip:  A buffet can be more expensive than a seated dinner
Tip:  Saving money – eliminate the canapés (they are labor intensive)
Tip:  Request two boxed meals for after the wedding with plastic forks etc. for the bride and groom – include some dessert also.
Tip:  When a friends or family gifts you the catering, it may not mean they are also giving you the food nor the services required with staff, please get clear and qualify any charges you will need to cover.
Tip:  If you have paid the bartender for services and included a tip in his check, you should not allow a tips jar on their counter

Judith's Suggestions:
Do not hire a caterer prior to selecting your location.  Many event locations want you to use their selected caterers list or their on-site chef. Couples are challenged by many of the following concerns and ask if the caterer can:
  1. provide ethnic style recipes or kosher kitchens
  2. health department licensing
  3. bring a wait staff to serve the food to seated guests
  4. set the buffet display in a quality presentation
  5. serve and staff the reception with trained personnel
  6. provide adequate food for the number of guests
  7. offer extended services such as party rental selection and setup, bartending, cake cutting or valet service
Most caterers offer you websites and photo albums, plus printed menus to assist in making your decisions. If there are specific food requests the catering choice may revolve around various ethic foods and menus and service.
Circumventing problems is twofold. Knowing the questions to ask  when you interview (sit down with the caterer) and calling their references to make certain their reputation is good.
Most important questions to ask their references are:
  1. Did the caterer provide the items and menu you requested?
  2. Was the food fresh, good and ample?
  3. Was the food well presented and displayed?
  4. Was the wait staff attentive to the guest needs?
  5. Would you hire this person again?
Once you have decided you require a caterer, select three. Request interview dates and if you like them during the interview ask for a bid.  Usually they will give you two price points with the option of including items or red-lining them.
If a bid comes in higher from your very favorite caterer, then ask them to review the bid with you and see if there are methods where you can lower your costs and still achieve your favored caterer.   

Find favorite caterers in your chosen region on 

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With caterers and their staff, the final bill will include tax, tips and often cake cutting charges and corkage fees for opening your wines.  Please ask to see the fees with all items included in the bid.  You don’t want any surprises.  Each catering company has their own policy and contract  to indicate charges and payment structure but generally 50% is requested for the reservation.
Most caterers want to know the number of guests attending in the week prior to the wedding day so they may order the food, etc. Most caterers expect the final payment on the quoted price prior to the date of the event/reception. There may be additional charges because of corkage and bar bills. Please place someone in charge of this payment at the end of the event - this can be the wedding planner who reviews the bill, a parent or designated person. 
Other questions you may want to ask:
  1. Who does the clean up?
  2. What happens to the leftover food?
  3. What are some lesser priced alternatives?


  1. Thank you for this tips. It really helps me a lot.

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  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

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